Marshall V. King
The steakhouse salad wasn’t the first salad with which I fell in love.
It was the second.
The first was a mix of mandarin oranges, candied almonds and a sweet vinaigrette that friend Cynthia Good Kaufmann made even before she was married.
That was nearly two decades ago.
But the salad with pieces of steak that Dave Cormican made at Casey’s in downtown Elkhart felt like a man’s salad.
He’d take the trimmings from the steaks he cut by hand and put a bit of spice and crust on them. He’d put it on greens with banana peppers, bleu cheese, onions, croutons and tomatoes. He’d add Italian vinaigrette that looked like dirty motor oil but was packed with great flavor from the spices.
I loved that salad. It was the first time I ate a salad that made me want a nap afterwards.
Casey’s closed, but Dave is cooking for his nephew Mike Miles, who’s had Miles Lab for nearly three years at 3763 E. Jackson Blvd.
Miles Lab, the former Bulldog, touts itself as a burger bar and has a good tap list. But its list of salads is pretty good too.
The Italian salad ($9.49) is another Casey’s salad with a lot of meat and cheese.
There’s a chef salad and one called Berry Bleu ($8.49), which several readers recommended. The latter has strawberries, candied almonds and bleu cheese, as well as raspberry vinaigrette the restaurant makes. It beats most raspberry vinaigrettes you can find these days.
You can add chicken or shrimp to salads, as well as those bits of steak to something other than the steakhouse salad.
My question going into Salad Quest, the search for the best salad you can buy in Elkhart County, was how the steakhouse salad would compare to others in the community.
It’s as good as I remembered. My mouth starts watering at the thought of it even as I write.
The salad started as a way to use leftovers. “Use everything humanly possible,” Miles said.
He started adding it as a special and then to the menu. “It’s been a hit for us as well,” he said.
The berry salad is similar to what they had at The Emporium, where Miles got experience before having his own place.
Not everyone would like the bold flavors of the steakhouse salad, but I think they complement and balance each other. This salad is unique and it works. I’m not the only one who thinks so, given how it sells.
Miles Lab is making most of its dressings, including the French dressing Bulldog made and the Louie dressing that’s a take on the French. The dressings are well constructed and go well with the salads.
I’d love to see more variety in the mix of greens, but I’ve always had fresh and vibrant greens at Miles Lab.
These salads are dependable and flavorful. And they’re finalists in Salad Quest, joining Constant Spring, Antonio’s and Kelly Jae’s Cafe.
Salad Quest was on an unintentional hiatus for a bit due to the Elkhart County 4-H Fair and other reasons. But it’s back. The search continues. A few places remain.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. He also has free tickets for this weekend’s Greater Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church barbecue. The first 10 people to post “I’d love some free BBQ” on the Dining A La King Facebook page get one.